Rating: 4 out of 5
The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed for the true life adventures Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, both films that spent too much time glorifying rah-rah heroism to properly tell their stories. But this dramatic thriller, which recounts the events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, is a startlingly visceral experience, allowing for a lot more humanity in the characters. Which actually makes them feel both more honest and more heroic.
Wahlberg plays Tommy, a street cop who feels like no one notices that he's rather good at his job. When two brothers (Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze) explode bombs at the marathon's finish line, Tommy leaps in to help the injured. And due to his local knowledge, he also helps advise FBI investigator Richard (Kevin Bacon), who is working with the local police commissioner (John Goodman). As the frantic manhunt for the bombers extends over the following days, Tommy's wife (Michelle Monaghan) tries to get him to rest, but he pushes on. And with the whole city helping the cops, the brothers are eventually chased into the neighbourhood of beat cop Jeffrey (J.K. Simmons) for an intense showdown.
This film manages to get the balance right between gritty action and inspiring heroics. Berg mixes documentary footage in seamlessly, grounding everything in reality, and he lets the actors draw out the flaws in these real-life people. This makes them much easier to identify with, which in turn makes the action sequences that much more involving. There's a shootout in here that is perhaps one of the most outrageous ones ever put on film, even more remarkable because it's true. And while Wahlberg is the only character who gets some proper depth, he plays Tommy beautifully, bouncing off everyone else in ways that add meaning and energy to the film.
Each person on screen provides plenty of intensity and off-handed humour. And even the bombers (and Melissa Benoist as one brother's wife) have some unexpected complexity as misguided activists rather than merely snarling villains. All of these elements are woven together with a riveting sense of urgency that drives the events forward. The violence here is always surprising and horrific, never glorified. And the fast pace means that the audience never gets a chance to catch their breath, which makes the emotional documentary coda that much more powerful. So while this is a loving tale of how Boston united to catch these criminals, it's also a moving tribute to cities around the world that have faced tragedy with the same determiniation and resilience.
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Facts and Figures
Run time: 133 mins
In Theaters: Friday 13th January 2017
Box Office USA: $28,306,013.00
Box Office Worldwide: $32.1M
Distributed by: CBS Films
Production compaines: CBS Films, Closest to the Hole Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 113 Rotten: 30
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Cast & Crew
Director: Peter Berg
Producer: Scott Stuber, Mark Wahlberg, Dylan Clark, Stephen Levinson
Screenwriter: Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer
Starring: Mark Wahlberg as Sgt. Tommy Saunders, John Goodman as Commisioner Ed Davis, J.K. Simmons as Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese, Kevin Bacon as Richard DesLauriers, Michelle Monaghan as Carol Saunders, Melissa Benoist as Katherine Russell, Michael Beach as Gov. Deval Patrick, Alex Wolff as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Rachel Brosnahan as Jessica Kensky, Jake Picking as Sean Collier, Lana Condor as Li, Erica McDermott as Jimmy's Girlfriend, Khandi Alexander as Interrogator, Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Meng, Kathy Harum as Carol's Mom, Martine assaf as Connie Pugliese